The capture of Fuenterrabia (11 March 1813) was a daring exploit carried out by a force of Spanish guerrillas and saw them capture and destroy the castle at Fuenterrabia, within sight of France.
The castle of Fuenterrabia was on the Spanish side of the Bidossa estuary, looking across towards France. By 1813 it had been held by the French for some years, and the garrison presumably felt secure in a position so close to their own country.
The attack was carried out by a tiny force of fifteen men, led by a Spanish NCO, Fermin Leguia. At 11pm on 11 March Leguia and his men scaled the walls of the castle. Leguia and one other man went up the walls first, and overpowered the single guard at the top of the walls. A few more of his men were summoned to the top of the walls, and they then found and overpowered a second guard, who had the keys to the gates. Leguia was then able to let the rest of his men into the castle. Most of the garrison were sleeping back in the town, and there were only eight gunners left in the castle. Leguia and his men were able to overpower these men, and then set about destroying the guns in the castle. After that they set fire to it, and escaped into the night.
The flames were visible some way into France. The French garrison from the town, made up of gendarmes, attempted to catch Leguia and his men. More troops came up from Irun to the south and Hendaye, just over the border in France, but without success. Leguia’s exploit captured the public imagination, but had little long term impact on the war.
A History of the Peninsular War, Volume VI: September 1, 1812 to August 5, 1813: Siege of Burgos, Retreat of Burgos, Vittoria, the Pyrenees